FORT HOOD, Texas, May 27, 2013— Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. Army Major accused of killing 13 and injuring 30 others in a mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas on November 5, 2009, has received around $278,000 in salary payments over the three-and-a-half years he has been awaiting trial.
According to an NBC 5 Investigates report from Dallas-Fort Worth NBC affiliate NBC 5, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense confirmed its continued payments to Hasan, stating that the department can’t suspend his salary until he has been proven guilty.
The news of Hasan’s continued pay has added fuel to the controversy over the Defense Department’s classification of the event as “workplace violence” instead of a “terrorist attack,” and has prompted many to call for department to change the designation of the shooting, to allow its victims to receive the same benefits afforded to those who suffer “combat-related” injuries.
Retired Army Specialist, Logan Burnett, was a reservist who was being processed to be deployed to Iraq when Hasan opened fire in the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center. He was shot three times in the Fort Hood attack. He was stunned when he learned that Hasan was still receiving his military salary.
“There have been times when my wife and I cannot afford groceries. We cannot afford gas in our car,” Burnett said. “Literally, times where we ate Ramen noodles for weeks on end. This makes me sick to my stomach,” said Burnett.
Burnett, who has had more than a dozen surgeries since the shooting, says post-traumatic stress still keeps him up at night. However, according to the Army, neither his wounds nor the wounds of any of the other Fort Hood victims are classified as “combat related”; they are the result of “workplace violence”.
“I honestly thought I was going to die in that building, just blood everywhere and then the thought of — that’s my blood everywhere.”
To Burnett the shooting felt like combat.
“You take three rounds and lose five good friends and watch seven other people get killed in front of you. Do you have another term that we can classify that as?” He asked.
(It) “Sickens me. Absolutely sickens me. Workplace violence? I don’t even know if I have the words to say,” he said.
The “combat related” designation is important. Without it, Burnett and the other shooting victims cannot receive combat-related pay. They are also not eligible for Purple Heart retirement, and certain other benefits given to soldiers who received their wounds in battle. As a result, Burnett, and the other Fort Hood victims will miss out on thousands of dollars in potential benefits and pay every year.
But is this a valid reason to change the designation of the attack at Fort Hood to “combat related” when it clearly did not occur during actual combat? If we can designate a non-combat related incident “combat”, couldn’t we just as well designate a combat related incident “non-combat”?
Does the act of talking with a “radical” Imam and shouting “Allahu Akbar” during the attack make Nidal Hasan a terrorist and the Fort Hood shootings a terrorist attack? What exactly did him and the Imam talk about? Do we know? Shouldn’t we know before making assumptions? Hasan is a practicing Muslim, what else, if not “Allahu Akbar” would he shout?
According to Article 10 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:
“No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline.”
What Nidal Malik Hasan did to his fellow soldiers and civilians on November 5, 2009 was premeditated, heinous, evil, and a betrayal of his country. He should, and most likely will, be tried and punished for his crimes. But we cannot arbitrarily change or abandon the law whenever it doesn’t suit us.
The integrity of the justice system is crucial to the sustainment of a free and orderly society; it must never succumb to the arbitrary nature of the vigilante.
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